“Results of actual oxytocin research in
relation to attachment and possible
connections with bonding “
19 TH INTERNATIONAL BONDING CONFERENCE 2013
ATTACHMENT AND THE ESSENCE OF RELATIONSHIP
BRUGES, BELGIUM (07 -09 JUNE)
Table of content
• Generally accepted information about oxytocin
• What´s new in this topic?
• Actual results concerning psychologigal effects and oxytocin in
attachment processes (human studies)
• Summary of the results concerning oxytocin and bonding
• Similarities and differences between bonding and attachment
Personal introduction 
Generally accepted information
about oxytocin (OT)
• very old from an evolutionary perspective and can be found almost
unchanged in all kinds of mammals
• consists of nine amino acids differing only in two of them from
vasopressin (Arginine vasopressin; AVP)
• neuropeptide in the blood and in the brain, generated in the
hypothalamus (two main nuclei)
• OT-levels tend to be stable over time (Levine A, Zagoory-Sharon O,
Feldman R, Weller, 2007)
Growing evidence for
relvevance in
psychological processes…
Anmerkung: Die Abbildung wurde
aus dem Buch „Biological
Psychology“ entnommen.
(Rosenzweig & Breedlove, 2002)
(3. Auflage) (S.132)
Neurobiological background and
physiology
• Projections from paraventricular oxytocinergic neurons in different areas of the
brain like bulbus olfactorius, frontal cortex, amygdala etc. (Bujjis et al., 1985)
• Some brain systems are especially equipped with oxytocin receptors like the
amygdala (Ferguson et al., 2000; Kirsch et al., 2005) and the limbic system (Insel &
Young, 2000)
• Increase or reduction is governed by the brain, estrogen and many other NT, as
well as sensory stimulation during suckling, warmth of the body, touch or sexual
stimulation (Lund et al., 2002; Kendrick et al., 1986; Sansone et al., 2002; Stock &
Uvnäs-Moberg, 1988)
Psychological effects of oxytocin in attachment
processes (human studies)
• Effects on the distribution of warmth in the body of the mother (Eriksson et al., 1996)
• strong negative correlations of agression with values of oxytocin and high positive ones with
calmness and interest in social interaction (Uvnäs-Moberg, 1990; 1993)
• reduction of anxiety in stressful situations (Heinrichs et al., 2002)
• augmentation of trust in social situations (Kosfeld & Heinrichs et al., 2005)
• experiences of social deprivation in russian orphans during the first month of life result in lower
oxytocin reactions (Wismer- Fries & Pollak et al., 2005)
• Attachment disorders and psychopathological development in general are associated with
insufficient levels of oxytocin
What´s new in this topic?
Current studies focus on psychological measures, which became more
differentiated and adress wideranging aspects of mother-infant relations:
•
maternal behavior and cognitions
•
maternal sensitivity (Prior et Glaser, 2006)
•
attachment behavior in infants (Prior et Glaser, 2006)
•
maternal mind-mindedness (Meins et al., 2001; Meins, 2002; Arnott et
Meins, 2007)
•
oxytocin and it´s impact on psychotherapy
•
genetic studies
Actual results concerning psychologigal effects
and oxytocin in attachment processes (human
studies)
Oxytocin and attachment
• OT-levels across pregnancy facilitates postnatal maternal behavior and the
formation of an emotional bond between mother and infant in humans by
acting to reduce anxiety and to ameliorate responses to external stresses
• mothers who have a less anxious state of mind are more able to increase
their focus on infant care (Uvnas-Moeberg et al., 1990; Chiodera et al.,
1991; Light etal., 2000)
• can regulate their own mood (Frasch et al., 1995)
• and recognize and respond effectively to nonverbal infant cues in the
context of a social learning and reward system (Domes et al., 2007)
Actual results concerning psychologigal effects
and oxytocin in attachment processes (human
studies)
Oxytocin and attachment
• plasma oxytocin concentrations measured during early pregnancy
and one month after delivery predict positive and adaptive maternal
behaviors, such as affectionate touch, motherese vocalization („baby
talk“) and mother to infant gaze (Feldmann etal., 2007)
• mothers with increased oxytocin responses are more sensitive of
moods, emotions and physical sensations, less compulsive, school
driven and task oriented (Strathearn, Iyengar, Fonagy et Kim, 2012)
• secure mothers compared to insecure –dismissing (avoidant) mothers
display higher oxytocin levels after interacting with their infants
(Strathearn et al., 2009)
Actual results concerning psychologigal effects
and oxytocin in attachment processes (human
studies)
Oxytocin and psychotherapy
• sensitivity of caregiving is cruacial for healthy development (Schore, 1994)
• poor or unstable care results lead to persisting difficulties in forming and
maintaining social relationships and increased vulnerability to depression, anxiety
disorders, substance abuse , personality disorder and adult physical health
disorders (Fonagy, Target & Gergely, 2000; Zeanah; 2000; Felitti etal., 1998)
• potential role of intranasal oxytocin in the treatment of disorders, such as maternal
neglect, post-partum depression and addiction is explored (Strathearn, 2011;
Striepens et al., 2011)
• injections of oxytocin into the blood has been found to reduce certain physical and
psychological symptoms of autism (Hollander et al., 2003; 2007)
• oxytocin administration attenuates stress reactivity in borderline personality
disorders compared with a placebo (Simeon et al., 2011)
Actual results concerning psychologigal effects
and oxytocin in attachment processes (human
studies)
Oxytocin and genetics
• oxytocin receptor gene (A allele of OXTR rs2254298) associated with
secure attachment in non-caucasian infants (Chen et al., 2011)
• oxytocin receptor gene (A allele of OXTR rs2254298) predicts
attachment anxiety in females and autism spcetrum traits in males
(Chen et al., 2011)
Overview (Nagasawa, Okabe, Mogi et
Kikusui, 2012)
Conclusion
results in animal reserach suggests that biological factors
contribute strongly to both the quality of maternal care and
intergenerational transmission of the motivation and capacity to
provide care to offspring
oxytocin production as well as oxytocin receptivity seems to play a
role
levels of oxytocin and the responsiveness of oxytocinergic system
to emotional stimulation varies from one individual to another
(Turner et al., 1991)
Summary of the results between attachment
and oxytocin
high fear of closeness
P = .009**
less fear of closeness
Summary of the results between oxytocin
and bonding
• Bonding seems to lead to an increase of oxytocin release after the
7th, but not after the first bonding session
• Bonding seems to influence the absolute responsiveness of the
oxytocinergic system
SD= 10,63
SD= 5,98
Summary of the results between oxytocin
and bonding
• Bonding seems to lead to an increase of oxytocin release after the
7th, but not after the first bonding session
• Bonding seems to influence the absolute responsiveness of the
oxytocin system
• The absolute responsiveness or flexibility of the oxytocinergic system
seems to be associated with a reduction of psychopathological
symptoms
Results of ANOVA and means of the dif.-value on the scale “GSI”
according to the three reactivity groups of oxytocin (first session) (n=38)
P = .016*
M = - 0,28
M = - 0,52
M = - 0,70
Similarities and differences between bonding and
attachment (Konni Stauss, 2006)
NE E D FO R B O ND I NG
NE E D F O R AT T TACHME NT
• need for physical closeness and
emotional openess
• need for a secure basis that
provides wellbeeing and security
in times of trouble and threatening
• no comittment or responsibility
through the satisfaction of
bondingneeds
• short-term relational resonsibility
• emotional contact and approach
• satisfaction of attachment needs
result in commitment
• character of reciprocal, long-term
responsibility
• long-term relation
Thank you for your attention !
Questions ???
Please ask ! 
Contact:
Deignis Fachklinik gGmbH
Walddorferstr. 23
72227 Egenhausen
(Germany)
[email protected]
References
• The role of oxytocin in mother-infant relations: a systematic review of
human studies (Galbally et al., 2011)
• An oxytocin receptor gene variant predicts attachment anxiety in females
and autism-spectrum traits in males (Chen & Johnson, 2011)
• Oxytocin receptor (OXTR) polymorphisms and attachment in human infants
(Chen et al., 2011)
• Oxytocin and mutual communication in mother-infant bonding (Nagasawa,
Okabe, Mogi et Kikusui, 2012)
• Maternal Neglect: Oxytocin, Dopamine and the Neurobiology of
Attachment (Strathearn, 2011)
• Maternal oxytocin response during mother–infant interaction: Associations
with adult temperament (Strathearn et al., 2012)
• A critical review of the influence of oxytocin nasal spray on social cognition
in humans; evidence and future directions (Graustella & MacLeod; 2012)
• Oxytocin administration attenuates stress reactivity in borderline
personality disorder : A pilot study (Simeon et al., 2011)
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Oxytocin and attachment - International Society for Bonding